How to protect your eyes from Diabetes?

Isn’t it a boon to see the beauty of the world as beauty is in the beholders’ eyes? Imagine a life where you cannot drive, cannot use computers, or walk on the street! Such a bleak existence can be avoided if you take care of your eyes.

An Eye Opener!

Our vision regarding eyesight is certainly poor. We believe that watching TV from a close distance and reading in poor light can reduce our eyesight. And for that, we prescribe carrots! Neither carrots are good for eyes nor does reading in poor light damage your eyesight. However, a much larger issue of diabetic  retinopathy seems to remain in the blind spot.

Some myths people have regarding their eyesight:

  • Staring at computers causes eye problems.
  • You don’t need periodical eye examinations.
  • If you cross your eyes, they permanently stay that way.
  • It is okay to stare at the sun if you wear sunglasses.
  • There is nothing one can do to prevent vision loss.
  • Your vision gets worse by wearing eyeglasses.
  • Squinting can cause loss of vision.
  • Children inherit eye problems of the parents.
  • People with poor vision should never read fineprint.
  • Artificial sweeteners can make your eyes more sensitive.

There is more to eyesight and eye care than that meets the eye and you have to be more cautious if you have diabetes.

Have an eye for vision?

In a recent survey conducted by the road transport authorities, it was found that lack of depth perception, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and glare recovery were responsible for several fatal road accidents.

And, if you think that there can be drastic consequences only to motorists, it might be shortsightedness. The eyes are special organs second only to the brain in complexity. They create 80 percent of our memories and cannot be transplanted.

Here are some facts regarding the eye that are eye-poppers:

  • Eyesight constitutes 50 percent of the brain activity.
  • An average person blinks up to 15 to 20 times a minute.
  • If your eyes were a digital camera, it would have 576 megapixels.
  • Your eyes have more than 2 million moving parts.
  • Because of the place where the optic nerve attaches to the retina, there is a blind spot and that creates a hole in the vision.
  • The muscles of the eye are most active in the entire body.
  • It is estimated that there would be around 31.6 million blind people in India by 2020. 80% of these can be avoided.  

Eye care neglect in India:

Having 40% of the world’s blind population among which 75% can be avoided does certainly look like turning a blind eye to eye care in India.

In a country where there is an ophthalmologist for every 90, 000 people, getting premium eye care might sound a far cry. However, it would be somewhat reassuring to know that most of the eye problems can be avoided with awareness and primary care.

Some causes of blindness in India:

  • Age-related macular Degeneration.
  • Corneal pathologies.
  • Diabetic retinopathy.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Retinal detachment.
  • Refraction errors.
  • Surgical complications.

Diabetes and Eyes:

Let us explore the relationship between diabetes and eyes, the  complications it has, and how to avoid them.

Did you know? Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of legal blindness in India.

Prior to being diagnosed, people might experience symptoms of diabetes that include blurry vision.  This is caused due to high blood sugar levels. In known diabetics, vision changes and troubles might manifest in the form of double vision. So, it is vital even for a non-diabetic to take notice of vision changes and get immediate medical attention.

Effect of diabetes on eyes:

It is said that one in three with diabetes is affected by diabetes eye disease in the lifetime. Diabetes, both type 1 and type  2, can  have a long lasting effect on the eyes unless you take proper care of it.

If you experience any symptoms of high blood sugar and have an eye swelling at the same time, it is advisable to consult a ophthalmologist immediately! This is because of the fact that diabetes tends to affect the tiny blood vessels and capillaries in the eyes.

How a normal eye works:

In a person with normal vision, light passes through the  front of the eye, and is focused by the cornea onto the macula, the central portion of the retina. The light sensitive tissues of the retina convert the light into electrical impulses and is then  passed onto the brain through the optic nerve. The brain interprets the electrical impulses and then creates a meaningful version of the world around.

The macula of the eye is a key part as it allows us to recognize  colors, and see the fine details of an object. Other parts of the retina allow for the peripheral vision.  

What happen with the eyes of a person with diabetes?  

If a person with diabetes has poor glycemic control and does not know how to control blood sugar levels, it is possible that tiny blood vessels in the eye, which supply blood to the retina, get damaged.

That is why a patient with high blood sugar symptoms along with blurry vision, seeing washed out colors, dark spots or floaters on the eyes, and seeing straight lines as crooked lines should immediately consult an ophthalmologist.

Things that can go wrong with your eye in case of diabetes:

1.Swelling up of eye lens:   

When a person has high blood sugar levels for a long time, fluid is pulled into the eye lens causing it to swell. This leads to blurry vision and it might take more than six weeks after attaining normal blood sugar range to get back normal sight.

That’s why a person with diabetes should not immediately go for new eyeglasses. He/she should take the blood sugar levels and the swelling of the eye lens into consideration before going for new glasses. Doing otherwise might cause the prescription to be ineffective.

2. Damage to the blood vessels:

Diabetes causes endothelial cells of the walls of blood vessels to become defective. Added to that, insulin resistance and lack of insulin causes certain deficiencies in enzymes which leads to the  damage of blood vessels.

Damage also occurs when high blood sugar levels persist for a long time. With high blood sugar levels, there is a reduction in the levels of nitric oxide (a vasodilator), which narrows the blood vessels.

In the eye, damage to the blood vessels occurs in the retina due to the effects of diabetes causing the retina to become thin and weak. When these weakened areas of the retina leak a fatty substance called exudate into the center  of the retina, eyesight gets  impaired.

Hence, it is important to get yourself an eye examination as soon as you experience poor vision.

3.Cataracts:

It is a known fact that people with diabetes and untreated symptoms of high blood sugar are at a higher risk of getting cataract than a non-diabetic. Also, the age of incidence of cataracts reduces with diabetes. If patients experience cloudy/double vision, sensitivity to light, and sees halos around  objects, they should immediately consult an ophthalmologist.

4.Glaucoma:

One of the major effects of diabetes on the eyes is glaucoma. If a person has diabetes for a long time the risk of glaucoma is very high. It occurs when the pressure in the eye increases with the  leakage of aqueous humor into the anterior chamber. This  pressure causes changes in the blood vessels connected to the optic nerve and the retina leading to progressively reducing vision. If you experience sudden vision loss, have hazy vision along with the appearance of rainbows around bright lights, consult an ophthalmologist immediately.

5.Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that is not properly controlled. It is an effect of diabetes that damages the retina. When blood vessels in the eye that are part of the retina get damaged, blood might leak into the retina due to hemorrhages. This is called early diabetic retinopathy.

When these hemorrhages get worse, blood flow to the retina is cut depriving it of nutrients and oxygen. This is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

In this condition, the retina builds new blood vessels that are weak. These weak blood vessels might also bleed due to uncontrolled diabetes. This leads to retinal detachment and ultimately blindness.

How to prevent eye problems in people with diabetes:            

      

  1. People with diabetes should know how to maintain proper blood sugar control with diet, exercise, and medications. Since medications alone cannot ensure target blood sugar values, one should consult a dietician for the appropriate food for diabetics. Also, the services of a diabetes educator is very important as he/she can educate you regarding the disease and the condition management.
  2. People with diabetes need to take extra precautions to keep their blood pressure levels in control along with blood sugar control.
  3. Cholesterol levels also need to have tight control.
  4.  People who have type 1 diabetes should have an annual dilated eye examination.
  5. People who have type 2 diabetes should have periodic eye exams.
  6. Quit smoking. Smoking increases diabetic eye problems multifold.

Eye protection from pollution for people with diabetes

As such dust, smog, and air pollution cause irritation, redness, and infections of the eye. Added to that, lack of nutritious diet leads to vitamin deficiencies, which causes vision problems. And, if you have diabetes, the chances of contracting eye diseases is much higher. It is for this reason that diabetics have to take extra precautions to avoid dust and pollution. Here a few tips for people with diabetes to avoid dust and pollution.

  1. After coming back from outdoors, wash your eyes with cold water.
  2. To ensure better protection, it is advisable to wear sunglasses that provide complete protection.
  3. Never rub the eyes when dust particles or pollutants enter the eye.
  4. Use eye drops prescribed by your doctor for lubrication.
  5. Avoid visiting industries that deal with chemicals. If needed, wear proper protective eye gear.
  6. To reduce inflammation, apply cold compress.  

   

Finally, to prevent eye complications due to diabetes, one should have  all eyes on blood sugar control, adopt lifestyle and behavioral modifications necessary, and get periodical examinations.

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